Where Have They Gone Essay

This essay has a total of 3189 words and 12 pages.

Where Have They Gone

For many reasons the human race could be called a blessing. Great advanced in technology,
medicine and even the fact we are the most sophisticated species on the planet. Are we a
gift to planet Earth, or far from it? With cast amounts of pollution and destruction of
the planet, not to mention unthinkable acts of violence and hate that has been going on
since the beginning of time. Are we really as sophisticated and important as we have led
ourselves to believe? Are we any better than any other creature because we are more
technologically advanced? Is the human race a blessing?

Humans have destroyed and endangered more species on our planet than any other species or
group, with our continuous pollution and lack of respect for out own environment. One area
of the world affected by our careless habits is our coastlines and the marine habitats
that vast amounts of species rely on. These particular areas of the world are being
destroyed because humans don’t seem to care as long as they make a couple of dollars in
the process. Oil spills like the one in the Prince William Sound on the coast of Alaska
and Hawaiian sea turtles and their many troubles with humans are just some examples of
human carelessness and the consequences that the environment, particularly marine wildlife
incur, which often are fatal.

I chose this particular subject because I find the ocean and it’s unique and rare
inhabitants to be interesting. Every coastline has its one unique species and no two areas
are the same. I wanted to learn more about how humans are destroying the habitats of these
unique creatures. I found that all species are in someway being threatened by human
dominance and carelessness. From the common flounder or sea star you can find when you
walk across the beach to a rare fish like the coelacanth (prehistoric fish that was
believed to be extinct until one was caught off the coat of Madagascar by a local
commercial fisherman until in the 1950’s). The ocean can be a calm and loving but can
easily turn into a vicious killer within seconds. All of these things are what I find so
interesting about the ocean. I wanted to find out why people can continue to destroy it
even though they know the effect of their actions. I guess some people are ignorant and
just don’t care if they destroy the things that make our environment so beautiful.

One example of our careless destruction of our environment is the Exxon Valdez oil spill
off the coast of Alaska in 1989. The Prince William Sound still shows signs of the oil
spill tem years later. Most species have recovered since the spill, but many are still
suffering. The Harbor Seal and herring are just two who are vital to the survival of all
the species in the area. Herring are the main source of food for many species in the area,
including humans. (Mitchell, p.98) “The ecosystem is gradually recovering from the spill,”
says Molly McCammon, an Executive director of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council,
“but it will never be the same as it was twenty years ago.” The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Trustee Council was founded to oversee the use of nine hundred million dollars to the area
by the government after settling with the Exxon Company for one billion dollars in
criminal and civil damages. One serious problem in the aftermath of Exxon Valdez is the
decline of herring. (The table shows the chave in populations of Prince William Sound
before and after the Exxon Valdez spill.)

Even more disturbing than the fact herring aren’t recovering as well as other species like
them is the fact they were on the decline before the accident. This was a major issue
because herring are the center of the ecosystem in the Sound. Many biologists now believe
that over fishing of the herring has contributed to their decline. The Pacific Herring is
just one species of the area, but if you see how important that one species is to the
ecosystem of the Alaskan coast than you begin to see how important all species are to
their particular habitats. This is just one example, but if you take a species out of its
environment, then a chain reaction would occur, hurting the species around it.

Another species that biologists are beginning to study wit the money received from the
Exxon Valdez settlement is the Alaskan Salmon. The oil spill has left the Alaskan Salmon
on the decline until recently, but still the species is reeling. “The last two years have
been extremely positive for the Alaskan Salmon population,” stated one Alaskan biologists.
But her concerns were more focused on the salmon offspring, which had been effected by the
spill. Fry, as seen in the left vial, were damaged by the oil. The fry still come in
contact with oil when oil pockets seep into some intertidal spawning streams. “These
pockets are like mines,” says Jeffrey Short, a scientist with the National Marine
Fisheries Service. Scientist discovered the oil caused genetic defects in salmon. Many
species in the Prince William Sound are still recovering from the spill. This is just one
spill and you can see the devastation it has made upon its ecosystem. This has been called
one of the worst oil spills in history. But you can imagine there has been numerous spills
that are almost as areas might never fully recover from the spill on their ecosystem. The
devastation of an oil spill is just one of many causes of marine destruction that humans
are guilty of. Many other species suffer from damaged habitats.

Another example of humans destroying their environment and the unique species that live
there is Hawaiian Sea turtles. The turtles are becoming endangered because of loss of
habitat. The overwhelming presence of humans in the turtle’s habitat is making is harder
for turtles to find areas where they can lay their eggs. The loss of nesting sites if
hurting the reproduction of sea turtles because unpopulated beaches are becoming harder to
find. Sea turtles have an affinity for certain beaches and when they cannot lay their eggs
there they have to find new areas which can take time. Other reasons why the turtles are
being threatened are pollution of the ocean and netting. Pollution in the form of debris
is killing turtles. They can ingest the plastic debris and it makes it hard to get the
nourishment needed from the food they eat. Netting is another killer of turtles. Fishing
nets set out by commercial fisherman are a definite killer of sea turtles in the Hawaiian
Islands. (http://www.turtles.org/marines). Erosion of beaches also hurts the sea turtle
population. The lack of beach force turtles to lay their eggs in a smaller area. When
humans try to stop or reduce erosion it disturbs the turtles even more. Sea walls, canals,
jetties, and sandbagging are all things that are used by humans to stop erosion, but they
are hurting the turtles more than they are helping them. They need dry land in order to
lay their eggs and these structures are deducing land even further. Fibropapilloma Tumors
are a serious threat and are beginning to show up on turtles in Hawaii and other areas
with large numbers of sea turtles. They were first seen in turtles around 1930, but it
wasn’t until 1980 that the tumors began to show up in epidemic proportions. The green
turtles were the only known species to have the tumors, but it has recently been
discovered in other turtle species. The most effected areas of the world are Hawaii,
Florida, and Australia. (http://www.turtles.org/threats.htm)

All of these threats to turtle population are hurting their hopes of survival. But people
out to help the sea turtles such as Denise Parker who works with a marine turtle program
in Honolulu, Hawaii, have worked hard and the population of marine sea turtles has
actually been on the rise in recent years. The turtle’s population is coming up from
endangered and threatened to a safe number, but that isn’t far enough for many who care
about the turtles. They continue to help increase the population because they know they
would begin to decline again if they didn’t have any help. Many groups such as the Marine
Turtles Research Program and the National Marine Fisheries Service are helping to restore
the turtles in Hawaii. There are also many individuals whose work with the sea turtles
have helped in preserving them and their natural environment. One of these people is Ken
Nichols. Nichols is a supporter of turtles and he is trying to make the people aware of
the environment in the Hawaiian Islands. He feels that the most important thing we can do
is conserve the wilderness and beaches from expansion. We need to educate people about the
turtles especially children. When asked about how we can save the environment and the
habitat of turtles as well as other species Nichols said, “This is obviously a difficult
task as the human population continues to grow, which means we are constantly expanding
into wild areas which support bio-diversity of all types. I believe the greatest task is
education of children and more efficient use of the existing areas we are using.”

These two ideas, are good examples of how the human race destroys the environment around
them. We continue to hurt our wildlife, but there are people out there to fight against
the pollution and destruction caused by large corporations and businesses. The Endangered
Species Act of 1973 has helped tremendously in the battle for survival of species like the
turtles in Hawaii as well as other threatened and endangered species of out planet.
(http://www.fws.gov/r9end.com). This act prohibits the further destruction or death of the
species. By the Endangered Species Act, citizens of the United States are prohibited from
taking an endangered or threatened species, declared by the U.S. Fish and Wilidlife
Service, from its environment whether on United States’ soil or in its waters. Punishment
if caught breaking the lwas instead in this act are as follows; 25,000 dollars if caught
violating the rules listed above, 12,000 forknowingly participating in the importing or
exporting of such species. Any person who otherwise violates any provision of this Act, or
any regulation, permit, or certificate issued hereunder, may be assessed a civil penalty
by the Secretary of not more than $500 for each such violation.

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